Commission $1 Million for Juvenile Court Upgrades

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

(Memphis) The Shelby County Commission makes a big controversial decision about giving your money to the Shelby County Juvenile Court System.

The commission has been arguing for months over a federal mandate that says the county has to make some major changes to the courts or the face lawsuits.

The commission is approving over a million dollars to give to the juvenile courts after the justice department found problems with discrimination and children not being given their constitutional rights.

But not all commissioners agree with forking over the money and say in a tight year it could be spent elsewhere.

“A comprehensive statistical analysis was done and it found a significant disparity in the way white children and black children were treated,” said Commissioner Steve Mulroy.

So the US Justice Department says the county has no choice but to give money to juvenile courts for public defenders.

The state is also giving a million.

“The reason why we’re in this situation is because the pool of lawyers over there are mad they’re only making $40 an hour,” argued Commissioner Terry Roland.

Commissioner Mike Ritz says that’s not the case.

He says the judge had all the power to appoint the attorneys for both side and serve as the jury.

“If that’s not a travesty of justice. We should all be ashamed that occurred here,” said Ritz.

Commissioner Heidi Shafer says approving the million and hundreds of thousands in other juvy court costs are much cheaper that the lawsuit the county will be slapped with unless they comply.

“This will not be the total cure, but I think it will show a good faith effort. We’re going to have to do it.  The department of justice nearly always wins,” said Shafer.

Commissioner Walter Bailey says it’s not just about paying for attorneys for some of the accused; it’s also about protecting the constitution.

“Those children down there are not criminals. You’re not a criminal until you are found guilty,” said Bailey.

The commission also approved 300,000 to pay for the monitors who will come down from the Department of Justice to inspect and make sure the county is following their orders.